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This World Sight Day, Orbis International Calls for All Eyes on 2020 and Preserving the Future of Vision

Amid significant progress to celebrate, the global demand for eye care is set to triple over the next three decades.

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(PRESS RELEASE) NEW YORK – On the eve of World Sight Day, Orbis International celebrates achievements of the eye health community over the past two decades, and warns of a projected global tripling in demand for eye care over the next thirty years.

2020 is a critical year for Orbis International and other leaders in the global eye health community. Next year will mark the end of Vision 2020, a global project of the World Health Organization and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness to reduce avoidable blindness.

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When the project was launched just over 20 years ago, the number of blind people worldwide – then 45 million – was expected to double by 2020. Thanks to the coordinated efforts of the global eye health community galvanized by Vision 2020, the doubling never occurred.

Despite this progress, the World Health Organization’s first-ever World report on vision, launched today, shows that 2.2 billion people around the world live with vision impairment or blindness. Of those, at least 1 billion people have conditions that could have been prevented or have yet to be treated. The vast majority of this burden is borne by people from low- and middle-income countries, women, older persons and those from rural communities and ethnic minorities.

Experts had already predicted that global blindness and vision impairment are set to triple by 2050 because of population growth, aging and changes in lifestyle. This increase in patient load will result in a tripling of global demand for eye care; already the number of people in need of care is outpacing the number of trained ophthalmologists.

“As 2020 approaches, we have much progress to celebrate, but if we are to prevent the looming crisis, we cannot rest on our laurels,” said Bob Ranck, president & CEO of Orbis International. “We have to take what we’ve learned over the past two decades and use it to make our future efforts laser-focused on what we know will preserve vision for the greatest number of people.”

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Taking a people-centered approach: Training local eye health teams is the most sustainable way to ensure that vulnerable communities gain long-term access to the quality eye care they need in their communities. 75% of all blindness and visual impairment is treatable or preventable. A lack of access to screening and treatment is the primary barrier keeping hundreds of millions of people living in low- and middle-income countries from saving or restoring their sight.

Going to scale: Leveraging innovation and technology is one of the most cost-effective ways to help local eye health teams improve their quality of patient care. Tools like artificial intelligence, virtual reality and telemedicine have already shown their potential to change the way eye health teams in rural and resource-poor communities conduct screenings for common conditions that endanger vision, and deepen their skills by learning from colleagues around the world. These tools will become even more vital as population rises and patient loads increase.

“We know what needs to be done to avert the looming vision crisis, but it can’t be accomplished alone,” said Danny Haddad, M.D., chief of program at Orbis International. “The achievements made over the past twenty years prove that there is strength in numbers, and collaboration will be key as we continue our fight against avoidable blindness.”

Orbis International’s contributions to preventing the looming crisis are evident in our recent impact. In 2018 alone:

  • 148 of Orbis’s Volunteer Faculty (medical experts) were deployed to train local eye care teams on our Flying Eye Hospital and in 89 programs in partner hospitals around the globe.
  • Doctors, nurses and other eye care workers and community volunteers from across the world completed more than 63,000 trainings.
  • More than 5,800 eye health professionals from 165 countries completed virtual trainings through Orbis’s telemedicine platform, Cybersight.
  • 2,160 patient consultations were conducted through Cybersight.
  • Orbis launched a simulation training program that uses the latest technology – like virtual reality, artificial eyes and life-like mannequins – to build local eye health teams’ skills, including surgery, nursing and anesthesiology, in a controlled environment.

Learn more about Orbis’s impact in our recent report.

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